Eugene Joseph "Gene" McCarthy (March 29, 1916 – December 10, 2005) was an American politician, poet, and a long-time member of the United States Congress from Minnesota. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1949 to 1959 and the U.S. Senate from 1959 to 1971.
In the 1968 presidential election, McCarthy was the first candidate to challenge incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, running on an anti-Vietnam War platform. The unexpected vote total he achieved in the New Hampshire primary led Johnson to withdraw from the race, and lured Robert F. Kennedy into the contest. McCarthy would unsuccessfully seek the presidency five times altogether.
The son of a deeply religious mother of German descent and strong-willed father of Irish descent who was a postmaster and cattle buyer known for his earthy wit, McCarthy grew up in Watkins, Minnesota, as one of four children and attended St. Anthony's Catholic School in Watkins. A bright student who spent hours reading his aunt's Harvard Classics, he was deeply influenced by the monks at nearby St. John's Abbey and University. McCarthy spent nine months as a novice before he left the monastery, causing a fellow novice to say, "It was like losing a 20-game winner."